This past week—as Alex Rodriguez sat fighting to hold back tears—I couldn’t stop singing “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead!” In the most unorthodox manner, Rodriguez announced that he will be retiring from baseball. He never actually used the word ‘retirement,’ rather it was more of a press conference to announce the Yankees were releasing him and paying him $21 million dollars not to play next season. While it’s possible for another team to pick up the poisonous veteran, Rodriguez’s playing days seem far behind him.
For the past 22 years, A-Rod terrorized the league both on and off the field. Statistically, he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest to ever play professional baseball: Over 3,000 career hits, 696 home runs, .295 batting average, 14 all star games, 3 MVPs, and a World Series championship. He revolutionized the shortstop position, paving the way for today’s slugging middle infielders; however, off the field, he became one of the most salient poster boys for the performance-enhancing drug era. Put simply, he was a liar and a cheat, and, for many years, the personification of evil in the eyes of baseball fans.
As Major League Baseball worked to clean up the league and move away from the so-called ‘Steroid Era,’ A-Rod refused to listen. Even after the league implemented widespread drug testing in 2003, Rodriguez continued to solicit and use performance enhancing drugs. Unlike Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Roger Clemens who were doping during the height of the steroid era, A-Rod continued to cheat the system well into the late 2000s. He infamously lied to Katie Couric in a 2007 interview about his steroid use and was ousted again when a 2014 investigation found he had been using human growth hormones as a member of the Yankees.
There have been few athletes as universally vilified as Alex Rodriguez. Regardless of the stadium, he was constantly heckled by opposing fans. He repeatedly stepped up to the plate to a chorus of boos or “A-ROID!” chants. Aside from his steroid controversy, Rodriguez was part of numerous other scandals. According to former Yankees manager Joe Torre, he was referred to as ‘A-Fraud’ by teammates and clubhouse attendants who resented him. He had a well-documented falling out with Yankees legend Derek Jeter—Rodriguez was the Darth Vader to Jeter’s Skywalker.
However, A-Rod made baseball entertaining. People tuned in to see Rodriguez play. Regardless of what was coursing through his veins, he constantly tormented opposing pitchers and fans alike. While you prayed for him to strike out or take a fastball off the rib cage, you also knew he could send any pitch 450 feet over the outfield fence at any moment. While Vince McMahon and the WWE work tirelessly to create these kinds of characters, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig had his supervillain handed to him. So, as A-Rod steps away from baseball, I picture him getting up from a white-clothed dinner table and yelling to the world in a drunken Cuban accent, “You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fingers and say, 'That's the bad guy.' […] So say goodnight to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again.”